Sustainable building and living in Switzerland

Sustainable building in Switzerland. All information at a glance.

Sustainability is more than just a trend. Sustainable building and living makes you less dependent on imported raw materials and will save you money. The advantages of an energy-efficient home and what homeowners need to know.

Sustainable building pays off many times over

Putting the focus on sustainability when building or renovating your home is not only good for your own conscience and the environment. Homeowners also benefit from greater energy efficiency in other ways. First, decreasing their carbon emissions will help Switzerland achieve its climate targets and reduce pressure on their household budgets by cutting down on their energy consumption. Second, they will be able to use domestic resources such as wood pellets or electricity that are produced in Switzerland, instead of relying on imported fossil fuels.

The path toward more sustainable building is increasingly becoming the law. In the canton of Zurich, for example, existing oil and gas heating systems that have come to the end of their service life must be replaced with eco-friendly heating alternatives. If you focus on sustainability from the outset, you will save on costs further down the line.

What is sustainable living and building?

Sustainable building and living begins with choosing natural and sustainable materials and using buildings in an efficient way in order to reduce the habitable floor area required. This lowers the amount of heating needed and the amount of green space that has to be built over.

Good thermal insulation and sustainable heating solutions, such as heat pumps, also contribute to greater sustainability. In addition, solar thermal and photovoltaic systems on the roof provide low-cost hot water and sustainable electricity for the home – without emitting any greenhouse gas.

In this article, you can read more about the measures you can take to build your own home in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

In the case of renovations, homeowners are able to use the cantonal energy certificate for buildings (GEAK/GEAK Plus) to determine the energy performance of their property and identify which renovation measures would be effective. The Minergie standard valuable guideline for planning and renovating sustainable buildings, and supplements the GEAK Plus.

Read more about independent energy production and sustainable heating solutions in this article.

Measures to increase sustainability in the home

Homeowners can introduce various adjustments to make their home environmentally friendly. The most important measures are:

  • Insulate the facade: Extensive insulation of the facade ensures that the heat energy remains in the house for longer. It makes sense to do this in the basement or in the attic too, because this is where a lot of energy is lost through poor insulation. In particular if they are to be used as living space or a studio.
  • Use solar energy: Solar modules and solar collectors installed on the roof or on the facade of the house produce electricity and heat for private consumption without emitting greenhouse gases.
  • Overhaul heating systems: Homeowners who replace their oil or gas heating system will no longer be affected by price increases in fossil fuels. A modern wood heating system fueled by wood pellets from local forests or a heat pump can heat the home efficiently and offer a practically carbon-neutral alternative.

Read more about the financial benefits of renovating heating systems.

Taking sustainability into account from the outset

Improvements in terms of sustainability are usually easiest to implement in new buildings. If the measures are taken into account in planning the building right from the outset, homeowners can amplify the impact of the savings and avoid subsequent costs. For example, the slope and the size of the roof can be planned in such a way to enable the photovoltaic system to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight. Moreover, the structural design of the roof must be factored in when fitting a solar installation to guarantee that the building has sufficient load-bearing capacity for it. It is equally important for homeowners to find out about local regulations and obtain the necessary permits in good time.

If changes are made further down the line as part of a renovation, it is often not possible to achieve the same effect. The costs will be higher too.

You will find detailed information about the possibilities for conversion and renovation in this article.

Measures to improve sustainability can also be implemented in condominiums. As a rule, however, these must be jointly adopted and financed by the full homeowners' association meeting. This often complicates and prolongs the process.

Save ancillary costs with sustainable investments

An environmentally friendly heating system, a photovoltaic system, or new insulation – energy-saving measures do not come cheap. However, the savings in energy and heating costs generally cancel out the high initial investments costs within just a few years. This applies in particular to investments in the building envelope and building systems, in independent electricity production, and in heating systems that use renewable energies.

All these measures reduce the amount of energy consumed by the home and the energy costs for the homeowner. If self-generated solar power is enough to meet the homeowner's needs, any surplus can be fed into the public electricity grid. This is good for the budget because local energy suppliers pay for surplus electricity that homeowners generate. The amount depends on local feed-in tariffs. Furthermore, households with an electrically operated heat pump benefit on average from lower ancillary costs. And using renewable energies to heat your home also reduces the risk that sudden rises in prices for imported fossil fuels will cut unexpectedly into your household budget.

Sustainability increases the value of real estate

One important reason for making your home sustainable is the value of the property, because investments in sustainability maintain or increase the value and selling price of the property over the long term. This is due not only to the improved energy footprint, but also to the high standard of comfort. For example, one feature of Minergie houses is their particularly pleasant indoor climate. In addition, if you switch to new technologies at an early stage, you can also safeguard yourself against risks posed by regulations. For instance, if there is a trend toward an outright ban on oil-fired heating in a specific canton, this could deter buyers and push down your final selling price.

Sustainability is not just an important factor when it comes to selling your home; it also plays a significant role in the case of rental apartments. On the one hand, tenants have a growing awareness of sustainability aspects. And, on the other, landlords are able to achieve higher net rents due to the lower ancillary costs needed to operate heat pumps, solar installations, etc. compared to fossil fuel-powered heating systems. The result is a higher return on investment.

Optimal financing of investments in sustainability

It can be a challenge to find the right financing for sustainable homes and renovation work due to the high initial costs. However, the federal government and the cantons promote investments in sustainability using numerous subsidies. Although the details vary depending on where you live, the following always applies: It is important to find out everything you need to know in good time and to submit all applications before construction begins.

Would you like more information about which energy measures are subsidized in Switzerland? Then read this article.

It may make sense to increase your existing mortgage in order to finance a major energy-related renovation. The increase in the value of the property as a result of the investment increases the maximum loan-to-value ratio. However, this does not alter the fact that the mortgage must meet the affordability criteria at all times. Other options for financing the work include taking out a building loan or pledging pension fund assets. Tailored advice will help you find the optimal financing solution.

Calculate the monthly costs you could expect to pay if you increase your mortgage with just a few clicks using our mortgage calculator.

Current trends in sustainable real estate

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue in the real estate sector. Buildings currently account for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland. Much still needs to be done to achieve the planned target of net zero by 2050. Read about how this target can be reached and the challenges of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energies in this article about the Credit Suisse real estate study 2023.

In large projects in particular, the concept of sustainability is already becoming increasingly broad. In addition to energy efficiency, the adaptability of a building is also growing in significance. Flexible structures ensure that buildings are used in the best possible way throughout their entire service life – even if the needs and requirements of the owners, the residents, or society as a whole were to change radically.

Read about the trends in large and small-scale construction projects that will enable greater sustainability in the future.

Are you interested in buying a home or planning your mortgage?

Schedule a consultation
We would be happy to help. Call us at 0844 100 114.